The Soviet Union is approaching political anarchy. While the ground war in Kuwait seems to have brought an end to hostilities in the Persian Gulf, the paradox is that the next potential for armed intervention may well be within the Soviet Union itself.
The signs are now manifest and inescapable.- Eduard Scheverdnadze resigns as foreign minister to try and stop a Russian dictatorship (read Gorbachev).
- Boris Yeltsin declares the Russian Republic independent of Soviet central authority, and the vast majority of Russians support him.
- The Baltic republics all vote their independence.
- There is trouble in Soviet Georgia and other southern republics, which all want to secede from the Soviet Union.
The United States may soon find itself in the unusual position of initiating diplomatic strategies to avoid bloodshed within its former Cold War enemy's borders.
There are three events which make this scenario nearly predictable and unavoidable.
First, the latest Soviet diplomatic role in the gulf process was duplicitous. The Soviets have contributed nothing to the coalition gulf effort - no money, no materiel and no manpower - only verbal support for the U.N. resolutions.
The principal Soviet contributions have been to Iraq. They are: Soviet SCUDS; Soviet anti-aircraft batteries and Soviet tanks. All have failed in battle, and the resurgent Soviet military was anxious to redeem its good relations with the Iraqi leadership and sell more armaments before the door closes on Saddam Hussein at the conclusion of the ground war.
The Soviet intention was to bargain for peace while resupplying Iraq with military equipment (the lifting of he embargo was a part of their "peace" strategy), and to position themselves for a potential role in the aftermath of the war. The Soviet strategy did not insist on the removal of Saddam Hussein, but did insist on the lifting of economic sanctions to make arms sales possible.
Nevertheless, a mid-February Gallup Poll revealed that 49 percent of the American public believed the Soviet Union was playing a positive role in seeking an end to the gulf war.
But the so-called diplomatic last-minute Iraqi peace initiative, and the emergence of the hard-line anti-American rhetoric in Soviet publications, signal the return of the military right-wing to prominence.
Second, the Russian Republic's Parliament, like the Baltic parliaments already, will vote on March 17 on whether or not to have a vote on the Russian Republic's president. It will also vote on Gorbachev's very shaky referendum to continue the present Soviet Union policy.
Boris Yeltsin, as president of the Russian Republic, is the apostate of the Communist Party, but is the acknowledged leader of the political movement for independence for all 15 republics in the Soviet Union. How will the Soviet Parliament, and military, deal with the declared independence of its Russian Republic? Will it send tanks against its Russian comrades as it did in Lithuania?
As of May 1990, 43 percent of the people in the Russia Republic wished to secede. The Russian Republic has even been engaging in joint venture free-market enterprises on its own without approval from the central government. It recently withheld funds intended for the central government.
The 40,000 who demonstrated February 24 in Moscow in favor of Boris Yeltsin as president of the Russian Republic, and against Gorbachev as leader of the Soviet Union, is a strong testimony to the approach of political anarchy among all the Soviet republics.
In the Russian Federation, 80-90 percent reject socialism, and only 14 percent "fully trust" the Communist Party.
Third, during the latest February START talks on reducing arms in Europe, the USSR insisted that the U.S. accept new conditions for counting warheads and defining new missiles. As a result, the START talks limiting such missiles, which were going surprisingly well in Geneva until recently, are now crumbling. This demonstrates that the Soviet military is in the ascendancy again, and not the diplomatic moderates.
Nor will the army stand idly by while the republics attempt to secede. Political destabilization will most likely mean Soviet military intervention. It is a confrontation it cannot hope to win.
Perestroika released social tensions inside the Soviet Union that neither the Communist Party nor the state apparatus, nor very likely the military, will be able to arrest. All these forces are detrimental to centralized power, and include ethnic separatism, religious fundamentalism, and even terrorism, as the rise in Soviet airplane hijackings attests.
Unless a civil war begins first in Yugoslavia, Russia itself will next be the theatre of civil conflict. The United States has always wanted to deal in its foreign policy with a Russian united in territorial integrity. Yet the Soviet Union is the last remaining world empire, the very epitome of colonial expansion.
The old Russian empire, which has existed since 1918, is collapsing rapidly economically and politically, and the independence movement throughout the Soviet Union is simply the first indication of this total breakdown in political and economic order. The U.S. should let this happen, and not support the USSR with economic relief.
The Soviet structure is riddled with artificial pillars that, like the Berlin Wall or Samson's strength, will not be able to withstand the pressures on them to crumble. Communism has been exposed as merely a decrepit state police apparatus. In numbers alone, the KGB still exceeds the combined security forces of America, Europe and Asia, including China.
Unlike Czechoslovakia or Germany, there is no democratic tradition in Russia for participation in governance. Czars or "organs of the state" have always decided what is best for the people. Therefore, the potential for released political and economic freedoms may easily result in an epoch of acute instability.
But the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, whatever anyone understood by it, is now a fiction. We should witness in 1991 the final death throes of communism in the Western world.